Denis Naughten has described the ESB’s decision to demolish the Lough Ree and West Offaly power plants as “wasting an opportunity for local jobs as well as €176m of charges paid by electricity customers”.
“This decision by the ESB was made in the best interests of the company and not based on what is in the best interests of the community, which goes against the whole ethos of a semi-State company,” said Denis Naughten.
“If anyone was in doubt about this approach, they only need to look at the €5m which the ESB re-announced last week to go into the Just Transition Fund. What the ESB has failed to say is that it sought to recoup that €5m from every family in the country through their electricity bill.
“They will now seek to pay for the cost of the demolition of the existing power stations from electricity customers, many of whom are struggling to pay their electricity bills.
“These two power plants had 10 years of operational lifespan left and the Government’s own Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey described these plants as being in pristine condition. So, when these plants are demolished, it is effectively wasting €176 million of electricity customers’ money in lost operational capacity, which every single family in this country will have to pay for again through their electricity bills.
“I have made these points consistently with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for the Environment over the last year on the floor of Dáil Éireann reminding them that we have seen similar mistakes made in the past with the demolition of our two sugar plants in Mallow and Carlow, which I argued against at the time.”
Denis Naughten added: “The fact is that the ESB is compromised when it comes to independently assessing the future use of these plants and furthermore the current structure of electricity charges effectively incentivises the ESB to demolish the plants.
“Because of its vested interest in both of the sites – which is not necessarily in the interest of the taxpayer, the local community or electricity customers across the country – Government should have ensured a completely independent review of all potential options for the two plants rather than just accepting the ESB plan.
“Let’s not repeat the mistakes we made in our sugar industry in Mallow and Carlow. Government – even at this late stage – must not let these power plants be demolished until all possible alternatives have been fully and independently explored,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Dáil debate on the topic:
ESB plans renewable energy centres at Midland sites
- Shannonbridge and Lanesborough sites to include synchronous condensers and energy storage capabilities
- ESB confirms transfer of €5m to Just Transition fund and exploring development of part of the Midland sites for use by community groups
18 June 2021
ESB announces that it is developing plans to use cutting-edge technologies at its Midland sites in Lanesborough and Shannonbridge that will facilitate ever-more renewable electricity on Ireland’s grid and, in turn, help the country achieve its climate goals by 2030. Though the large industrial power stations will be demolished in line with our planning obligations, the company is exploring how other buildings on the sites could be handed over for use by community groups.
Following the closure of the stations, ESB engineering teams engaged with the Just Transition Commissioner and County Councils to consider alternative uses for the existing plant and equipment. Unfortunately, having considered commercial and climate action realities in particular, no viable solution was found to repurpose the plants.
However, ESB can confirm that, following a comprehensive feasibility study in recent months, both our sites at Shannonbridge and Lanesborough have the potential for providing energy services which would facilitate the growth in renewable generation. This position was validated by an external engineering consultancy.
In this context, ESB is currently developing planning applications for both station sites as renewable energy centres, in anticipation of future competitive tenders to be held by EirGrid and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). The proposed technology includes synchronous condensers and energy storage capabilities at both locations. Detailed environmental assessments will be carried out in support of those applications.
Should these applications be successful, ESB’s plans would then enable the company to successfully develop these sites within the appropriate regulatory, environmental and planning timelines.
ESB remains committed to the Midlands through the development of these projects, its €5m contribution to the Just Transition fund and its Networks operations which employ over 400 highly skilled engineers, technicians and office workers in the region – as well as our National Training Centre for Network Technicians in Portlaoise.